Mayans vs. Science

My friends have been joking on Facebook for weeks now about “apocalypse parties,” posting REM videos, and getting things done before the world ended today. And I have to say, a very small part of me was looking forward to this happening, if only so I wouldn’t have to pay my student loans.

But all this “world ending” nonsense is strange, because we don’t seem to be doing much about actual threats to our country. With all of the fuss on social media over the past few days about the Mayan calendar ending and the end of days drawing near, I find it interesting that we’re so willing to accept an ancient civilization’s prediction of the world ending, but not seem to accept and act on scientific evidence of climate disruption – and actual threats to our civilization.

In the most recent “State of the Climate” report, the NOAA noted a steady rise in temperature over the past 12 years:

Including this November, the 10 warmest Novembers have occurred in the past 12 years. The 10 coolest Novembers on record all occurred prior to 1920. November 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive November and 333rd consecutive month with global temperature higher than the long-term average. The last month with a below average temperature was February 1985, nearly 28 years ago.

What this means, as Grist so brilliantly put it, is that “If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month.” If anything, weave experienced warmer than usual weather – and more extreme weather at that.

A little over a month ago, Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast. And while most of Washington was asking how New Jersey would vote, or if Chris Christie and his fleece pullover would run for President in 2016, reporters finally chose to cover climate disruption and the extreme weather events associated with it – finally talking about something that climate scientists have been on to for years.

At the same time, conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation were writing memos that not only downplayed the impact of global climate disruption on natural disasters, but openly questioned if it was happening at all. In a December 4th article “Hurricane Sandy: Not the Global Warming Bombshell It’s Cracked Up to Be,” Heritage not only said that global warming didn’t contribute, but that it may not even be happening.

Make no mistake: The storm’s damage has brought great hardship to the Northeast—and right before winter. In the wake of such devastation, it is reasonable to look for a cause and explanation for suffering.

But regardless of what the truth is about man-made global warming or how fast the climate is changing, no one can rightly attribute Sandy to its effects. The world is much more complex than a grade-school diorama of the ecosystem and atmosphere, where cause and effect are contained within the four walls of a decorated shoe box.

So, to recap: climate disruption may not be real, didn’t have anything to do with Sandy, and climate science is malarkey. But the world is ending because the Mayans ran out of calendar.

Now thankfully, more and more Americans are ignoring Heritage’s claims and cluing into climate disruption. And more people are making small moves towards going green. But with all the evidence pointing towards climate change, there are still people out there like the Heritage Foundation who refuse to accept our role.

As a nation, we need to have a serious conversation about climate, and what we can do collectively to slow the change. And while we’ve already made some good strides – like increasing the fuel efficiency standards on future models of cars – there’s still more we can do.

Every State of the Union, the President talks about moving towards green jobs and the energy of the future. Let’s do that. Let’s invest more in green energy sources. Let’s talk more about climate change in schools so that students grow up knowing that their actions have impact on the environment. Let’s train more workers in green jobs and engineering. And let’s get rid of this foolish notion that climate disruption isn’t happening – and that we have no impact on that change.

The Mayans said the world was ending today. But I have a feeling that tomorrow, we’ll still be here. Let’s work together and curb this climate change so that our calendar doesn’t run out.

1 reply »

  1. The world hasn’t ended yet? Crap, that means I’m still in debt.
    We have indeed taken some small steps toward addressing CO2 emissions, but we have a long way to go, and time is our enemy. I guess the good news is that we are already seeing consequences, ahead of schedule. Effective action may be the silver lining to the cloud of huge disasters.